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Stabler, Stanfel nominated for Hall of Fame

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Quarterback Kenny Stabler and guard Dick Stanfel, who both died in recent months, were nominated on Wednesday by the Senior Committee for possible induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Stabler and Stanfel will be among 18 finalists who will be up for a final vote on Feb. 6, 2016 — the day before Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Stabler, nicknamed “The Snake,” was known primarily for his years with the Oakland Raiders (1970-79). Before coming to Oakland, he was an All-American at Alabama under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

The left-hander was voted Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player in 1974. In 1976, he led the league in passer rating, touchdown passes, yards per pass and completion percentage while also leading a league-high four fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives.

Stabler finished in the top 10 in the NFL in passing yards, completion percentage and touchdown passes every year from 1973 to 1979, and he led the Raiders to a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI on Jan. 9, 1977, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The late Gene Upshaw, a Hall of Fame guard who was the Raiders’ captain in those years, once said, “It’s impossible to define Ken Stabler with statistics and records. He was and is a legend among players — for his leadership on the field.

“Al Davis was our owner. John Madden was our coach. But, beyond any doubt, the leader of our team where it counted — on the field — was Snake. The only stat that mattered was a win.

“That crazy ass team of renegades we had demanded a strong leader, and Stabler was that leader. We always knew we could pull out a win with Snake calling the shots.”

Stabler was part of several plays so famous they have names, throwing a pass to tight end Dave Casper on “Ghost to the Post,” another to running back Clarence Davis on “Sea of Hands,” and faking a fumble that Casper could recover for a touchdown on “The Holy Roller.”

Not only that, he came off the bench to scramble 30 yards for a touchdown in a 1972 playoff game before running back Franco Harris and the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off “The Immaculate Reception.”

“Ken Stabler was better than me,” said former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, another member of the Hall of Fame. “Snake Stabler was the best quarterback in the ’70s, not me. He didn’t have a big cannon for an arm; he didn’t have the running game that we had at Pittsburgh. But when he had the ball in his hand, he was somebody you feared because you knew he would find a way to beat you.

“I was never comfortable playing against Kenny because our defense, the great Steel Curtain, didn’t faze him one bit. He was a cool customer. He had ice water in his veins. Stabler was the best two-minute quarterback I ever saw.”

Stabler was traded to Houston in 1980 and led the Oilers to the playoffs that year with an 11-5 record, equaling the most victories in a season in team history at that time.

In 1983, he led the New Orleans Saints to an 8-8 record, missing the playoffs by one game, and again equaling the most victories in franchise history up until then.

Stabler had a record of 96-41-1 (.661) as a starter, which is seventh-best in NFL history. When he reached 100 victories in 150 starts, he broke Johnny Unitas’ record of 153. Tom Brady now holds the record at 131.

Stabler died July 8 of colon cancer at age 69.

Stanfel, who died June 22 at age 87, was a standout at the University of San Francisco under great teams coached by Joe Kuharich, and he was a second-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions in 1952.

The Lions won the NFL championship in Stanfel’s first two seasons as he started from the outset, and he was selected to the Pro Bowl in two of his four seasons (1952-55) in Detroit.

Stanfel was traded to the Washington Redskins in 1956 and played the last three years of his relatively short career in the nation’s capital, making the Pro Bowl each time.

In 2002, Stanfel was selected to the all-decade team for the 1950s.


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